Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
House Republicans are still holding onto a goal of passing a liquor privatization plan in their chamber by early April, though it may not look like the governor’s original proposal to unload the more than 600 state liquor stores.
Democratic state Senator Anthony Williams of Philadelphia asserted Monday that Republicans have not coalesced around Governor Corbett’s liquor privatization plan, noting that many GOP legislators are interested first in modernizing the existing liquor system. He added that others have voiced concerns about the component that was supposed to make the whole plan go down easier: using the money generated from selling off state wine and spirits stores for one-time grants for schools.
“If privatization’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” said Williams, “but it won’t happen at the expense or the expansion of how we fund public education in Pennsylvania.”
It’s true that the backers of liquor privatization in the Legislature speak much more about a plan that would provide adequate consumer choice than they do about one that would yield enough money to mean a substantial grant program for schools.
Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia) is set to propose changes next week to the governor’s privatization plan that would keep the state stores open.
“This is significant privatization. It doesn’t go quite as far as the governor’s plan, but it goes pretty far,” said Taylor, the chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee. He allows that the revenue projections of his scaled-back liquor privatization plan wouldn’t be quite as “dramatic” as they would be under Gov. Corbett’s proposal, but Taylor hasn’t gotten the impression that’s a deal-breaker for the governor’s office. “I think our goals are the same,” he said.
Feedback from House GOP members, Taylor added, has been surprisingly positive.
“It’s a pretty remarkable thing, actually,” said Taylor. Remarkable enough to make him confident that the bill, with his drafted changes, can make it out of committee next Monday and pass a House floor vote soon after.
“I think we’ll make history next week,” said Taylor.
Last week, Gov. Corbett he is open to the idea of a plan that privatizes the sale of liquor and wine without getting rid of the state stores.
“I would be foolish to say no at this point in time, wouldn’t I?” he said. When it comes to ordering up legislation, Corbett added that he’s learned to keep his options open.
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